Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, July 23, 2010

Koreans okay Subic golf takeover

Businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco is all set to formally take over the renovation of the old Binictican golf course in Subic.

The grapevine said Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc., the company in charge of renovating the 18-hole golf course into a world-class facility, had agreed to the takeover terms of Tonyboy and the division of responsibilities with respect to the rehabilitation of the golf course.

Hanafil, represented by chief executive and president Benjamin John Defensor III, and its parent Hana Tours, the biggest travel agency in South Korea, will be in charge of renovating the front nine, or the first nine holes, of the Subic golf course to keep its minority stake in the project.

A source said Tonyboy’s group would rehabilitate the back nine and completely take over the construction of a five-star hotel and luxury villas within the golf course. Hanafil originally committed to build the hotel and villas as part of the package to renovate the 18-hole golf course.

Defensor, meanwhile, will continue to play a critical role in the P300-million golf project, serving as the go-between of Tonyboy and his Korean bosses. Defensor, son of former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Benjamin Defensor Jr. and nephew of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, will likely still be in charge of the golf rehab work and protect the exposure of Hanafil. The Korean company has made a down payment of $2 million to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Junket trips assured

The Binictican golf course, along with the five-star hotel and villas that he will build around the facility, will complement Tonyboy’s Nabasan beach resort project, just two kilometers away from the Subic Freeport. Tonyboy can essentially continue Hanafil’s plan to integrate the modern golf course into the travel package of Hana Tours in Korea. Hana Tours, prior to the golf renovation project, offered three-day golfing packages to Korean tourists. About 2,000 Koreans have participated in the junket trips, departing from Incheon and arriving at the Subic Bay International Airport.

The grapevine said the success of the junket flights, or syndicated travel packages, would lift Tonyboy’s Nabasan beach resort project, where he plans to sell memberships to Korean tourists.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza and the rest of the SBMA board have pinned their hopes on the modern Subic golf course to truly make Subic a tourist haven in Southeast Asia. Junket flights in the past boosted the Subic tourism industry. Casino operators in Subic used similar junket flights to lure more players from Asia.

Hanafil had planned to expand Binictican by another nine holes to make it a 27-hole golf course.

“We want to upgrade the golf course here, put it at par with international standards, and place it at the forefront of SBMA’s effort to further enhance the tourism market in Subic,” Arreza said earlier, adding that the renovation would prepare local tourism establishments “for more opportunities coming their way.”

Hanafil, which mainly targets Korean golfers, had planned to resume the junket flight program after the golf course is fully renovated. manilastandardtoday.com

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